Osceola Sheriff's Office ready to crackdown on 'COVID parties'

Article Courtesy of  The Osceola News-Gazette

By Brian McBride    

Published July 24, 2020


Osceola County Sheriff’s Office officials said they will be cracking down on what has been dubbed, “COVID parties,” because it has drawn shootings and other criminal elements.

Vacation rental homes in mostly the western section of the county have been the locations for the house parties that have been rented out since the pandemic started. They are located in gated communities where people from 50 to 300 people flock to, playing loud music, parking their cars in yards and dance in the street. There have been a number of noise complaints.

“These groups like to hang out, rent these homes and do things they wouldn’t want to do at their homes of their neighborhoods,” said Maj. Jacob Ruiz, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.

The parties are dubbed: “COVID parties.”

“That’s their own terminology from what we heard through the grapevine, through social media,” Ruiz said. “It’s nothing that we have labeled.”

But the problems they cause have increased from just loud noise.

An Osceola County Sheriff’s Office helicopter takes video of a “COVID party.

“We had a murder in April. We had a shooting this past weekend,” Ruiz said. “We’ve recovered all types of weapons, narcotics, stolen cars, it just keeps growing out of control.”

Homeowners associations and people who live in the area have become frustrated.

“It’s a quality of life issue, it brings the criminal element to Osceola County,” Ruiz said.

It’s not necessarily Osceola County residents causing the issue. A person will rent out a home and list on social media when the party will be. It draws people from all over Central Florida, Ruiz noted.

But the Sheriff’s Office is prepared to crackdown. They will be approaching the Osceola County Commission to see if some sort of ordinance can be put in place to reduce the amount of parties.

Because the communities are mostly gated, the Sheriff’s Office will be getting open enforcement letters from the homeowners associations to enter the properties and combat the criminal element.

They are also scheduling extra patrols just so they have a presence the areas where they know these parties have occurred.

“We are going to be proactive. We are going to be out there enforcing zero tolerance,” Ruiz said. “We have the community behind us, and just be ready if you come to these parties you are going to be confronted by law enforcement. If you are breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”